For People Crazy About 2D Animation!

Acme Punched! is for people crazy about 2D animation. It may be enjoyed by beginners and others, but it is aimed at animators who know already something about the process of animation and the basics of character animation. In large part, it will attempt to provide a deep look into the problem solving that goes on in my head as I work out a scene, often in step-by-step posts that I will sometimes enter in "real time", without knowing in advance what the outcome will be. Mistakes and false starts will not only be included but emphasized, so that the creative process of animation will be portrayed realistically. And, while my own bias is for 2D drawn animation, many of the effects and principles discussed here can apply to CGI 3D animation as well. I hope the blog will prove useful and instructive for all.

-Jim Bradrick

Sunday, November 13, 2016

No. 113, Take Two

After my post about extra drawings in the storyboard (No. 111, When the Storyboard Artist Is Also the Animator) I found myself continuing to work in real time with those drawings, and I decided I wasn't entirely happy with them.  Sometimes you have to tell yourself to let something go so you can get on to the end, but in storyboarding, if it isn't right, it must be fixed. If a pose or a gesture or a camera angle isn't right, you may not be telling the story in the clearest way; you may not be connecting with the viewer.  To ignore the opportunity to improve things in storyboarding is foolish, because this is the last stage when changes can me made cheaply; as experienced animation film makers know, changes in the animation stage or after can be disastrously expensive.

During storyboarding, you actually have the luxury of what a live action director would just call a second or third take.  You can say to your character, in effect, "Let me see you do that again, and this time get it more this way or that way." You thus direct the character: you draw it over and see if you can make it better.

Of course, this extends my metaphor that the independent animator is the director, and the animator, and the storyboard artist, and the inbetweener, and just about every other role in production.  In this case, you are the director talking to the actor (you again) about the character (you yet again.)

The example I will show you here is at the climax of a whole sequence, when the Old Man reveals the overcoat that he has pulled out of his trunk. Here is the first "take" of that shot, in two storyboard panels.

Having failed to tug the garment out with just one hand, the Old Man gets a good
two-handed grip (image 1) and pulls hard (image 2).
I found these poses to be wimpy and not sufficiently dramatic. So I spoke quietly with the Old Man (in my head) and then I had him do a second "take."

Now as he gets his grip, the Old Man is a more interesting silhouette, and he is
coiled like a spring (image 1). This time when he pulls hard (image 2), his torso twists,
the violent motion throws him out of balance, and he will clearly have to take
a step or two backward if he is not to fall down.
Importantly for the animation, there is now more change between the first and second poses.

I want to note that it is interesting to work with a character like this who has some physical limitations and therefore cannot perform all the vigorous variety of moves of a younger character who is in good shape; his back must always be bent, and any violent movement may cause him to lose his balance or even hurt himself. Mostly, though still strong, he must move slowly and with caution.

I have gotten very fond of this old gentleman, and I look forward to doing him justice when I get into the animation.


  1. Have you tried A from the first take with B from the second take?

    1. Hi, Rafael. An interesting question. Well, it is true that I changed pose B first, because it bothered me more. But as when rearranging furniture, after changing one thing, it then becomes obvious that something else also needs to be changed. One problem with the first pose A is that the Old Man may be looking at what he is doing, or he may not be; with those eyes squinted shut, it is often necessary to aim his head at his objective. Therefore I put his head in profile. Then I decided that I liked the idea of having his whole body gathered up for the effort he is about to make, and the clearest way to do that was to put the whole body in profile. His wrists bend down instead of up, and I think the whole pose will be more effective than the first one. If there is something still bothering me about it, it is that part of his face is covered by his arm and hand, but as he has such a large head, I cannot see a way around that.

      When I get into the animation (soon!) I promise to do this scene early on, and to write a post about it.

      Thanks as ever for your comments and your continuing interest!